Top Books on the Indus Civilization

A Selection of Well-Reviewed Books on Harappa and the Indus Civilization

Many great books have been written on various aspects of the Indus Civilization, also known as Harappan or Sarasvati culture. And no wonder! There is still much to be learned of this most ancient of societies on planet earth, in the Greater Indus Valley of Pakistan and India. Here's a selection of texts, along with links to reviews by scholars in the field. 

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The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective

The Indus Civilization: A contemporary perspective, Gregory L. Possehl
The Indus Civilization: A contemporary perspective, Gregory L. Possehl. Altamira Press 2002

Possehl GL. 2002. The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Walnut Creek, California: Altamira Press. ISBN 978-0-7591-0172-2, 276 pp.

Possehl's Indus Civilization and is an excellent in-depth study for the serious student of archaeology, covering current and past investigations into many of the sites of the Harappan culture of Pakistan and India. An outgrowth of Possehl's multivolume series on the Indus, Possehl expressly designed this book for a more general audience, and it includes both descriptive details of Indus sites as well as some broader topics that embrace both the Harappan civilization and beyond. In her 2004 review, archaeologist Sinopoli called it "a valuable launching point for undergraduate and graduate classes on South Asian archaeology".

Reviews

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02
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Ancient Cholistan: Archaeology and Architecture

Ancient Cholistan: Archaeology and Architecture
Ancient Cholistan: Archaeology and Architecture. Ferozons, Ltd. Lahore

Mohammed Rafique Mughal 1997. Ferozons, Ltd. Lahore, Mughal MR. 1997. Ancient Cholistan: Archaeology and Architecture. Lahore, Pakistan: Ferozons, Ltd.

In 1998, shortly after Mughal's book became available, doyen of archaeology Henry T. Wright described it as "magnificent" and an "essential guide for research". The book describes results of four seasons of archaeological survey of the Hakra river, including a sharp focus on the Harappan periods, the Islamic monuments in Uchh and recent forts erected for the Punjab forts.

Reviews

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03
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Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization

Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization
Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Oxford University Press

Kenoyer JM. 1998. Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Archaeologist Jonathan Mark Kenoyer's Ancient Cities was published as a guide to accompany a traveling museum exhibit called "Great Cities, Small Treasures: The Ancient World of the Indus Valley", at which over 100 artifacts were shown at several places throughout the world. Kenoyer, who served as curator for the exhibit, includes an illustrated catalog of over 200 items, with text setting the items into cultural context. Reviewer Kenneth Kennedy enthusiastically recommended the "excellent illustrations and finely crafted text" to both professionals and nonprofessionals alike.

Reviews

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04
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Lothal and the Indus Civilization

Lothal (2500-1900 B.C.), Archeological site, India
Lothal (2500-1900 BC), a prominent city of the ancient Indus valley civilization, with a unique lockgated dockyard, very early maritime architecture. Lothar's port enjoyed great prosperity owing to foreign trade with Mesopotamia beginning around 2350 BC. It was a busy industrial port importing copper and producing bronze celts, fish-hooks, chisels, spearheads and ornaments; particularly the beads and shells. Anand pPurohit / Getty Images

Rao SR. 1973. Lothal and the Indus Civilization. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Lothal is a classic study of the Harappan civilization, beginning with detailed summaries of investigations at Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Chanu-daro and other sites excavated by John Marshall other others. The bulk of the text is on Rao's excavations at Lothal (2500-1900 BC.), an Indus civilization port city located on the Gulf of Cambay in Gujurat, with evidence for substantial trade with Mesopotamia. The remainder of the book is dedicated to chapters on Harappan economics, social organization, commerce, art, language, religion and funerary customs. The text includes Rao's theory of the as-yet-undeciphered Indus script.

Reviews

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05
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India, An Archaeological History

India: An Archaeological History
India: An Archaeological History (Chakrabarti 2001). Oxford University Press

Chakrabarti DK. 2001. India, An Archaeological History: Palaeolithic Beginnings to Early Historic Foundations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Renowned scholar Dilip K. Chakrabarti's 2001 text covers British and Indian scholarship across the entire subcontinent, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, and covering the Paleolithic evidence through the early centuries AD. Kolb describes the Harappan chapter as "brief but splendid" and suggests readers might look to Chakrabarti's External Trade of the Indus Civilization for additional background. Miller finds Chakrabarti's emphasis on the environment as key to creating his integrated history of the vast area.

Reviews

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Deciphering the Indus Script

Stamp Seal, Indus Valley Script, 26th-25th century BC
Stamp Seal, Indus Valley Script, 26th-25th century BC. DEA / G. NIMATALLAH / Getty Images

Parpola A. 1994. Deciphering the Indus Script. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Finnish linguist Asko Parpola's 1994 text followed up two volumes of the classic Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions which documented Pakistani and Indian collections of the Indus script. The reviewers were universal in their praise of the comprehensive compilation of information on deciphering the as-yet undeciphered script but disagreed vehemently about the last half of the book, in which Parpola summarizes current theories and proposes his own about how the language might have developed and how that affects our understanding of the civilization.

Harappa.com has a summary of the text, and the full text itself (albeit without the images).

A Few (of the Many) Reviews

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